Do you know a good expert for CRM/Workflow/Practice Management?
One of the things I struggle with as a business coach supporting my clients is how to advise them on CRM and workflow programs. There is such an incredibly bewildering range of this stuff out there and so much of it is rubbish or not appropriate for certain industries, etc.
My clients in the building industry have tried Simpro, as well as Jobtraq and smarttrade and all have their issues.
In the professional services space it gets even worse. I have a couple of clients in design and creative agencies and they have experimented with "Affinity live," "workflow max," "Podio," "Harvest," "Blue Cameroo," and others and it has led several of my clients to alcoholism...
Does anyone know of a good, affordable advisory resource in this space that is useful and economical for small business owners to consult with?
Jacqui Pryor ,
Director at Mark My Words Trademark Services Pty Ltd
I've used Act! (by Sage) for about 10 years in some form or another, and, purchased it when I started my company 12 months ago, as I find it pretty user-friendly, does what I need it to do and isn't too expensive as a small operator. From memory it cost me about $350 for a single-user license. Honestly, I haven't used any of the others so can't actually offer points of comparison but could be worth looking into?
I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Hall's comments about fine wine.
There are about 400 different CRM products on the market, which range from simple contact management products such as Act!!! to large enterprise solutions that are highly specialised for one or a few industries and cost several tens of thousands of dollars per person for the licence alone. Just like with wine, all have their place and their advocates. Many of them also have people who would not go near them again.
However, before asking about specific technologies, if a business wants their project to be successful, they need to invest time in understanding their requirements and being realistic about their budget. When we look at those projects which fail it is rarely because the incorrect technology was selected, but for much more human reasons, often relating to the scoping of the project.
I am a Microsoft Dynamics CRM expert, and I would be happy to talk to any of your clients. Microsoft is both cloud and on-premise, and is highly configurable. There are also many overlays and add-ons which add specific functionality. Given that it works from inside Outlook and leverages other areas of Microsoft Office, it is usually easier for the users to adopt.
From a price perspective it is exceptionally good value for money, not cheap, but immensely good value for functionality delivered.
However, also like wine it needs to be implemented (or served) correctly. Imagine a cheap wine served in good glasses compared to a really good wine served in paper cups. The implementation will make or break the project.
Mike Hall ,
Owner at Jasmine Hall
Hi Roland, I've been trialing quite a few of these cloud-based applications for my wholesale business for much of this year - accounting, CRM, inventory management, sales pipeline, project management and more - and here's a quick summary of my observations. The market for advisers in this space is wide open!
There are some great applications out there for businesses of all sizes, but it's a bit like buying anything else - a breakfast cereal or a good wine. You need to do your research and try them out. And often you'll find something that you quite like but it has some niggling flaws: it does one thing well, but not the other thing you need. Or, more frustratingly - it won't talk to your other apps.
That's because a lot of these apps (especially the cheaper ones) are generic, and lots of businesses have different ways of doing things. Also, small business owners & managers just don't have the time to devote to researching what is, or could be, a whole new IT solution for their business. To have a really good idea of how some of these apps work you really need to convert current data across and spend some time actually using them - and often that's just too time consuming and complicated in a small business.
Some business owners I've talked to swear by some of the new solutions, and the more savvy have used integration tools to automate some processes across multiple apps. There's no doubt that buy-in from everyone - especially staff and/or contractors is critical too.
Phil Joel ,
Director at SavvySME
The industry leader for cloud based CRM is Salesforce. Their pricing plan starts at $5 / user / month. I have used Microsoft Dynamics which is now cloud based. I am not sure what their pricing is. The look and feel is similar to Microsoft Outlook which makes it easy for users to adopt.
I came across runmyprocess.com recently which could be a solution for workflow management. I haven't used this one so can't vouch for it.
I really think a good answer to this kind of question requires a "wish list" of the features/processes you would like in an ideal system. Otherwise, all you're likely to get are lots of different opinions from people about systems they like, that may be perfect for their situations, but not so for yours.
And then, if there are none out there that people can recommend, or any that meet all your requirements, you can talk to someone like me to help put something together that will meet every single one of your specific needs.